Archive for the ‘Birthday stuff’ Category


Will this birthday party be worth the stress, Mommy?

Posted by Medina County Moms

By Wendy Donahue, Chicago Tribune

Having the police show up at a 1-year-old’s birthday celebration makes a parent wonder: Is this party worth the stress?

Alison Ray said the police cameo at her daughter’s bash in August spiraled out of a neighbor’s being upset that guests were freely moving between the front sidewalk (where the plastic wading pool was) and the condo building (where the food and drinks were). While one officer was negotiating a peace settlement among the adults, the other offered a tour of the squad car and a light show to the kids. Ray sent the partners back to Chicago’s streets with homemade coconut cupcakes in hand.

The next week, Ray would be back to playing hostess, not just in her professional capacity as a meeting planner, but also for her older daughter’s third birthday. Leading up to it, her husband was out of town on business for a few days, and Ray managed to contract a virus that raised her temperature to 101.

And yet, Ray maintains, “I love hosting parties.”

Not all parents bounce back so cheerfully from the supersize stress that a wee one’s birthday bash can create. A few years ago, the jitters might have revolved around whether the goody bags were good enough (or, secretly, “better than”). These days, parents are scaling back, which brings new — or old-fashioned — challenges and rewards.

“Trying to make a party work in a manner that the kids have fun and you don’t upset anyone’s feelings and the party doesn’t go out of control and it doesn’t become exceedingly expensive is sort of a hard combination,” said David Sparrow, a senior editor for Parents magazine, which included a “7 party problems solved!” story in its September issue.

These days that can mean no party — especially for 1- and 2-year-olds who can’t appreciate or remember them, and smaller parties for older children, Sparrow said.

“We’re seeing parents say, ‘Let’s just do something with two or three friends,’ whether going to a game or taking a couple of friends to a show,” said Sparrow, who lives in New York. “It’s still a special experience, but it doesn’t have to be everyone in your class running around.”

“Going to a game” doesn’t require that your town boast a pro sports team, said Dawn Lantero, author of “S.P.L.A.S.H. Parenting Principles” (Growth Spurt Publishing, $14.99).

“With four children, I have planned a lot of parties,” Lantero said. “One time we took a group of fifth-grade boys to a high school football game after painting their faces and decorating T-shirts and our minivan. The boys were such passionate fans that they ended up being featured on the cable TV coverage of the game and could watch themselves on TV the following week.”

Lantero prefers home as the base of her children’s “friend parties,” which they were allowed to have every two years, with a family-only party in between. Lantero once hired a dance instructor for a group of third-grade girls. She has arranged a teddy bear tea party, a necklace-beading party, a T-shirt tie-dye party and a sports party with an obstacle course in the yard, boasting tunnels and baby-pool splash stations.

“It was an absolute riot,” she said. “These are simple ideas that take organizing but not a whole lot of money.”

Party destinations remain popular, however, for reasons such as insufficient space at home or the outsourcing of entertainment, food and serving duties; they also allow the parents to mingle and enjoy the party more.

Pump It Up, which has 164 “inflatable party zones” across the country, saw party numbers decline at the end of 2008 through the middle of 2009, said Chief Executive Lee Knowlton, who’s based in Tempe, Ariz. So, a bit like the wedding industry, Pump It Up began offering discounts for non-Saturday parties or entry-level 90-minute parties for smaller groups with no food and no goody bags. Prices vary by location.

“When we did that adjustment around July of last year, we saw a turn,” Knowlton said. “The last eight months, we’ve been above last year’s sales.”

Even before the surprise at her younger daughter’s party, Ray and her husband had booked their older daughter’s birthday party at a fantasy-play destination, with attractions such as princess and wizard costumes and slides — as well as a mini-police car and a jail.

If there is a “next time” for either daughter at home, Ray figures it will be around the time both have reached sit-down dinner-party age.

And she will add one more detail to the to-do list, she said: “Always invite the neighbors.”

A no-surprise party guide

Guest list: Conventional wisdom is to invite the number of guests equal to the age of your child. In some areas, it is customary to invite the child’s whole class; a variation is to invite your child’s gender only or just three or four best friends (with the invitation being sent to each child’s home, not to school).

To avoid unexpected guests (e.g., the invited guests’ siblings), be direct on the invitation, Parents magazine’s David Sparrow suggests, with something like, “We wish we had room for everybody, but we have to limit attendance to invited guests.”

Gift moderation: Some parents are softening the “no gifts” approach that has become prevalent the past few years, particularly for smaller parties of three to five children.

“For the most part, people like to give a gift and, obviously, kids like to receive a gift,” Sparrow said. Parents magazine suggests registering your party at, which e-mails your invitations and encourages guests to make a monetary contribution online instead of a wrapped present. Part of the money goes to a charity of the child’s choice; the rest to the child to choose a special present. Other parents ask for donations to help a local cause.

Meeting planner Alison Ray asked parents to bring gently used plastic toys to one daughter’s party to send to Second Chance Toys (, which distributes them to needy children. For her other daughter, who had a party with a friend whose birthday was days apart, the moms asked each parent to bring a box of diapers for donation to a local diaper bank.

Help!: Parties where the parents drop off the kids generally start around age 5 or 6, Sparrow said. “It really varies based on the parents’ comfort level,” he said. Be direct on the invitation by listing drop-off and pickup times.

In advance, ask one parent or older sibling/baby sitter for every three kids to stay and ensure that everyone is accounted for and safe at all times. “Too many adults is not a great thing after a certain age,” Sparrow said. This can create tension between adult socializing and party oversight.

Allergies: If you know a guest has allergies, tell his parents what you’re planning to serve, said Sparrow. You might offer to make something separately for that guest or ask his parents to bring something. It’s wise to keep common allergens (peanut butter) off the menu, just in case.

Good goodies: Many parents are opting out of goody bags, often filled with “a bunch of candy and choking hazards and annoying little trinkets that don’t really work or are lost within a day,” Sparrow said. An alternative is to have the children make items during the party that they each can take home.

“Kids do have the expectation of coming home with something,” he said, but you can make it a practical item or something connected to the party, such as a ball and bat for a baseball-themed party.

Gifts, please

A few statistics from a poll:

  • 94 percent of respondents said it was OK to regift presents your child has duplicates of or doesn’t want.
  • $15 to $20: the amount that most respondents (40 percent) said was appropriate to spend on a child’s birthday gift. $10 to $15 was second (33 percent). More than $20 was third choice (21 percent) and less than $10 was last (6 percent).
  • 70 percent said you do not need to get a gift if your child is invited but can’t attend a birthday party.

Birthdays are just different when you’re the mom

Posted by Jennifer

Right now, the biggest thing on my son Ethan’s agenda is his birthday. In a little less than three weeks, he’ll be turning 5. He has been fixated on this date — Valentine’s Day — for several months, since long before Christmas.

This has been one of the biggest surprises to me as a parent — how much children (or ours, anyway) look forward to their birthdays, even more so I think than Christmas. At our house, they do not always get a big party. Believe me, my definition of a “big party” is a heckuva lot simpler than that of some of their friends. Even when we have declared “this year we are not having parties,” we have usually caved a bit and allowed them to invite a few friends to spend the night. That usually involves a special meal, extra snacks and drinks, a movie or game rental, a special breakfast… suffice to say, it still entails a lot of work and expense, and I often have wondered how this was not a party.

I think that fixation on their birthdays must have something to do with turning a new number. It’s like a new identity for them. Think about it: what question do they get asked most often (other than: did you brush your teeth? or, eeew! was that you?)? It’s got to be: How old are you?

Soon, he will go from declaring: “I’m four” to “I’m five.” It’s like putting on a brand new superhero costume he’ll wear for the next year.

Funny, though, that the excitement surrounding birthdays generally disappears once you’re a mom. While we’re all about creating that sense of wonder for the birthday child, the reciprocal is not true when it’s our day.

Saturday was my birthday. It was not a milestone year or anything like that — and let me first say that I recently had a milestone birthday and my husband went all out with a party and all sorts of surprises. As much fun as that was, I was sort of glad to not be the center of that much attention this year.

But, oh, how the mighty have fallen. Not only was I not showered with attention and a day of leisure, only one of my family members — my 10-year-old son — remembered to wish me a happy birthday before 4:30 p.m.

Granted, it was one of those crazy, hold-onto-your-hat kinds of days, when everyone in the family seemed to have at least one place he or she needed to be. I was on a tight schedule from the moment I forced my eyes open at 6:30 a.m. until after I came home with pizza for dinner at 7:45 p.m. Thanks to the help of some good friends, we were able to get the children everywhere they needed to be, on time no less.

I was exhausted by the time we started a movie we’d rented (“Angels and Demons”), and I fell asleep in the first few minutes, so my husband turned it off and we watched it Sunday night. Because of all our obligations, we had decided to delay my “official” birthday dinner — at Chipotle — until Sunday night as well. (We had Romeo’s deluxe pizza instead — not a bad second-choice, really.)

But, you know, I still had to pick up the house, do laundry, wash dishes and wipe the dog’s muddy feet every time she came in from outside (this is going to be a long winter/spring unless we get more snow). And, the most telling thing? I had to take out the garbage.

Now, my husband knows that it gets under my skin something fierce when he continues to shove as much as he can into that tall kitchen garbage can, rather than just change out the bag himself. No, he will keep shoving until I eventually break and take it out myself. I can’t imagine what kind of sick pleasure he gets from seeing me quietly seethe every time I go to throw something away, only to find the top barely closes because it is so full. 

Somehow, I thought it might be different on my birthday.

As I was emptying the trash that night, that’s when it hit me. I’m the mom. It’s my job to make everyone else feel they are special and treated like royalty on their birthdays.  I’m the one who hangs streamers in the house, bakes their favorite cake, remembers what time they were born (or looks it up on their birth certificates) so we can know when they’re “officially” the next year older, recounts their birth stories, and fusses over them. My husband might do the majority of the gift buying (this is his special talent), but I am the one who wraps the presents and makes everything pretty.

It was a bit sobering to realize that no one was going to do that for me.

But then, how selfish of me to think they might! After all, I’m really not excited to be getting older — certainly not like they are — and the realities of the day’s obligations were just too demanding for there to be extra energy put toward something more. And frankly, with all the suffering now in Haiti, and so many other places in the world, it’s hard to think that anything above basic food and shelter could matter all that much.

And so I am a year older, with or without the fuss. I have a solid roof over my head, so much food in my refrigerator it occasionally spoils before we can consume it, and a bright, healthy family who loves me. We have two cars and a grotesque number of televisions and video games. I can sit in my slippers while earning a little money for my family, and I’m not forced to put my children in someone else’s care while I pack up and head off to work each day.

While there is much that I complain about (my house is too small/too messy/too noisy, for starters), I have everything that I need and more. I am, as a pack of notecards I own states, the “princess of quite a lot.” That is, in large part, thanks to my husband and children.

They all have birthdays in the next several weeks, beginning with my husband in two days. I look forward to showing each of them my gratitude and love, as only the mom can.


Dominic’s first birthday party

Posted by Medina County Moms

Caution: Pictures GALORE!! Enjoy!

Look who is in the big boy car seat now!

We went to an indoor playground for Dominic’s birthday-he loved running around and pointing at everything!

Dominic’s Birthday cupcake-he looooved it!

The clubhouse, before the party started.

The Cupcake Bar. Here you could decorate your own cupcake (no cake cutting for me!) with chocolate or vanilla frosting-then top it with sprinkles, chocolate chips and gummy bears! This was surprisingly not too messy-and fun!
I was so excited to find a frame made for 13 photos-I displayed all of the monthly bear pictures on the gift table and will hang this in Dom’s nursery

Goodie bags for all the kids! And there were a LOT of kids!

Another view of the room all set up.

For centerpieces we wrapped boxes in gift wrap and attached the balloons to the weight inside the box. We also made chocolate covered pretzels and sprinkled the table with Birthday Boy mintsGrandpa Daly & Dominic
We had planned to show a slideshow on the television, but ran into a couple bumps. We used my laptop to play the slideshow as guests filled up their plates!
I was so grateful to see so many loved ones! Maggie came up from Columbus! She’s expecting her first in June! Here’s Becky, Maggie & I.
Grandma & Dominic

The gift table with all the generous gifts!

Dominic’s #1 cake. I decorated it–he stuck his finger in it very early into the party

Birthday banner

Dominic was so cute while everyone serenaded him with “Happy Birthday to you”.
This is where I questioned my choice of blue frosting!

Next up-opening presents! Yay!

Cute overalls made by Dominic’s Godmother & Aunt Anna-it has little footballs and helmets on it

The matching friend Anna made–We call him Buddy, How cute is this!! He’s also sitting in the chair made for him from his Grandma & Grandpa Grasso-it matches our living room furniture!

The gift from Dominic’s Godfather & Uncle, Brett…notice anything familiar about the baby on the box! LOL My brother is so funny!
Checking out his new toys with Daddy

We used our Superyard as a safe play area for the children.

Can you believe that the big kid you see in the above pictures..looked like this a year ago!!??